September 29, 2014
Top Secret Files: The Civil War by Stephanie Bearce
Top Secret Files: The Civil War
by Stephanie Bearce
Getting kids interested in history can be tough if they think it is about nothing more than dates and names and lists of tedious facts. Bearce, on the other hand, has written a book about history that kids will want to read. After all, who doesn’t want to get in on a good secret?
Bearce’s series is all about spies, their missions and the tools they used to get the job done. She writes about plots against Lincoln, slaves acting as spies, women disguised as men, submarines, secret codes and attempts to steal locomotives. Each book in this series has five sections: Secrets, Spies, Special Missions, Secret Weapons and Secret Forces.
Young readers will learn about the part played by the Pinkerton detectives, a woman who used laundry as a code to send messages to Union forces, spy balloons, and the importance of maps. Bright lights were even used as a weapon. That said, not everything Bearce discusses was successful which is fortunate since the Confederacy tried to use germ warfare against the Union.
My favorite section was the one on Ft. Davidson. The fort isn’t far from my home and I’ve seen for myself just how small it is. It is featured in Bearce’s book because the Union Forces stationed there won a decisive victory by sneaking away and blowing the place up.
I also liked the how-to pieces. Readers learn the Confederate Signal Corp alphabet, how to create a scytale and even how to make a working model of a hot air balloon.
With so much information in one place, it might be overwhelming but Bearce has broken each section into easily-digestible chunks. A reluctant reader can easy conquer a section of 2 or 4 pages while more eager readers cna devour much more.
Readers who are especially intrigued by the topic will find a list of resources in the back of the book.
This is a very well balanced look at the Civil War. Bearce shows that the Union and the Confederacy both had successes and failures. She also includes information about men, women and children, slave and free. It isn’t a comprehensive look at the Civil War but it does give young readers information that they aren’t going to find in other books on the topic. Bearce is a former teacher and she knows both how to hook her readers and how to deliver the facts.
Pick this one up for history buffs, those who aren’t sure and even adult enthusiasts. Each will find something knew in this book.